Published: Monday 12 November 2012
“The dangers of coal ash are well documented. And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Kingston River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills.”

Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

Reports say that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge remain in the Kingston River, a result of the 2008 dam rupture that released the coal ash from the processing plant.  According to the EPA and TVA, it's perfectly fine to allow those contaminants to remain in the river.  As the EPA puts it, dredging up the remaining coal ash would actually release even more pollutants into the water – including contaminants left over from previous industrial accidents and Department of Energy projects. 

To put it more succinctly:  The “leave it lie” mindset occurred in the past, making it impossible to clean up current spills without disturbing previous contaminants that weren’t cleaned.  Pollution ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
The Memphis area is one of several embroiled in controversies over school discipline

 

Meridian is not alone under the Justice Department magnifying glass. In a somewhat similar case in Tennessee,  DOJ says the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County has failed both to inform children of the charges against them and to make sure they understand what their legal rights are ahead of questioning. Like Meridian, the juvenile court is also accused of failing to hold timely hearings.

Worries about a school-to-prison pipeline have grown in recent years, but there are different ways to define the issue, said Jim Freeman, senior attorney at Advancement Project, a nonprofit legal action group that fights racial injustice.

“How I like to define it,” Freeman said, “is the use of policies and practices that increase the likelihood that young people become incarcerated.”

That includes at-school arrests for minor behavioral incidents, as well as what he calls more indirect actions, like suspensions, expulsions or references to juvenile court or alternative schools.

Such practices have grown in the last 10 to 15 years, he said. ...

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
“While this sort of abuse is sadly familiar to LGBT Americans, discrimination against atheists is less well known.”

In May, the Lenoir City High School faculty was threatened with a criminal investigation for publishing a yearbook story titled, “It’s OK To Be Gay.” The student newspaper at the same Knoxville, Tennessee school was barred from publishing a piece by an atheist student explaining her lack of beliefs, which was later released in a local paper. What these two pieces have in common are teacher James Yoakley, who supported the publication of both articles as an English teacher and yearbook adviser.

This year, he was mysteriously transferred to a new job. He explained to Metro Pulse the fallout from the Yearbook incident and why he thinks he’s no longer in his previous position:

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Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
Published: Wednesday 28 December 2011
“By some estimates, the overall population that may be disenfranchised by this wave of legislation is upward of 5 million voters, most of whom would be expected to vote with the Democratic Party.”

All eyes are on Iowa this week, as the hodgepodge field of Republican contenders gallivants across that farm state seeking a win, or at least “momentum,” in the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. But behind the scenes, a battle is being waged by Republicans—not against each other, but against American voters. Across the country, state legislatures and governors are pushing laws that seek to restrict access to the voting booth, laws that will disproportionately harm people of color, low-income people, and young and elderly voters.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have just released a comprehensive report on the crisis, “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America.” In it, they write: “The heart of the modern block the vote campaign is a wave of restrictive government-issued photo identification requirements. In a coordinated effort, legislators in thirty-four states introduced bills imposing such requirements. Many of these bills were modeled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a conservative advocacy group whose founder explained: ‘Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.’”

It is interesting that the right wing, long an opponent of any type of national identification card, is very keen to impose photo-identification requirements at the state level. Why? Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, calls the voter ID laws “a solution without a problem. ... It’s not going to make the vote more secure. What it is going to do is put the first financial barrier between people and their ballot box since we got rid of the poll tax.”

You don’t have to look ...

Published: Tuesday 27 December 2011
“The incident is the just latest in a series of reports of senior citizens being denied their constitutional right to vote under restrictive new voter ID laws pushed by Republican governors and legislatures.”

A 93-year-old Tennessee woman who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office, says she won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades after being told this week that her old state ID failed to meet new voter ID regulations.

Thelma Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate:

Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.

Thelma Mitchell told WSMV-TV that she went to a state drivers’ license center last week after being told that her old state ID from her cleaning job would not meet new regulations for voter identification.

A spokesman for the House Republican Caucus insisted that Mitchell was given bad information and should’ve been allowed to vote, even with an expired state ID. But even if that’s the case, her ordeal illustrates the inevitable disenfranchisements that result when confusing voting laws enable state officials to apply the law inconsistently.

The incident is the just latest in a series of reports of senior citizens being denied their constitutional right to vote under restrictive new voter ID laws pushed by Republican governors and legislatures. These laws are a transparent attempt to target Democrat constituencies who are less likely to have photo ID’s, and disproportionately affect seniors, college students, the poor and minorities.

As ThinkProgress reported, one

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